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White House Can't Answer Key Porter Questions; Trump Releases 2019 Budget Blueprint; Figure Skater Adam Rippon Speaks Out; Obama Calls Presidential Portrait "Pretty Sharp." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 13, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- domestic violence very seriously.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House still unable to answer key questions about how it handled abuse claims against Rob Porter. Now, one of his ex-wives -- she's dismayed at the response from Kellyanne Conway.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's just-released budget prioritizes cuts to programs that could hurt the poorest Americans, and it's not expected to help the deficit much.

BRIGGS: And a record-breaking night for the Americans in PyeongChang. Chloe Kim can enjoy her ice cream at the top of the medal stand.

ROMANS: Good for her.

BRIGGS: She tweeted about ice cream the other day and then being hangry yesterday before winning a gold medal. Hangry not yet in the Merriam Webster's dictionary. I think it's time to change that.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And, I'm Christine Romans. It is exactly 30 minutes past the hour this morning.

It is now a full week since the Rob Porter --


ROMANS: -- scandal broke and three days since the president tweeted that people's lives are being shattered by quote "mere allegations." The human face on those mere allegations is emerging and getting harder for the country and the White House to ignore.

Rob Porter's first wife is now lashing out at the White House in a new op-ed in "The Washington Post." This photo of Colbie Holderness with a black eye galvanized reaction to the scandal. She is slamming these comments by Kellyanne Conway on CNN about White House communications director Hope Hicks, who was dating Rob Porter. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I've rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts, and loyalty, and smarts.

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN "STATE OF THE UNION": It sounds like you believe the women.

CONWAY: I have no reason not to believe the women.


BRIGGS: Colbie Holderness, one of the ex-wives with the black eye there, writes, "Borrowing Conway's words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman. But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ.

It's offer the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard to for the victim to see the situation clearly."


ROMANS: Now, when the president called for due process in cases like Rob Porter's it came as quite a shock to members of the Central Park Five. They are the five men who were wrongly convicted for the attack and rape of a Central Park jogger back in 1989.

Now, Donald Trump took out newspaper ads at the time calling for the death penalty against those young men in that case but he has never publicly apologized.

Here's what one of them, Raymond Santana, told CNN's Anderson Cooper.


RAYMOND SANTANA, EXONERATED MEMBER, CENTRAL PARK FIVE: Race does play a part in this, right, because he were, black and Latino boys who were 15 -- 14 to 15 years old and he didn't mind giving us the death penalty.

This is his character. It all plays a part of that. There have to be some there on the top and there have to be some there on the bottom. And he chooses to stay on the top and he wants all of us to be on the bottom.


BRIGGS: Santana will be on "NEW DAY" this morning.

The White House still looking for the right word to explain discrepancies over who knew about Porter's alleged abuse of two ex- wives. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders ? that the White House did not know the extent of the allegations until last Tuesday evening when the "Daily Mail" first reported them. Sanders is defending the administration's shifting response but admits the West Wing is looking at how it could have been improved.


SANDERS: -- continue to look at the process and the role we all played and how we can it better, but not just in this. I think every day we come to work and we hope to do a better job than we did the day before.

As we recognized last week, there were some things we could have done better. And we're certainly going to look at every single instance and every single thing we do -- how we can always do it a little bit better than we did the day before.


ROMANS: The press office declined to detail exactly what White House counsel Don McGahn knew. CNN and other media have reporter McGahn was aware a year ago that Porter's ex-wives might give damaging information about him in their FBI interviews.

All right.

The White House released its 2019 budget blueprint. Now, the two-year spending bill just passed. This won't be adopted by Congress but it does showcase President Trump's priorities this year.

There's $200 billion to spur infrastructure spending; $23 billion for border security, including funding for that wall; and $17 billion to fight the opioid epidemic. The budget also radically changes some major programs like food stamps, replacing half of the monthly cash benefit with a box of food delivery.

It privatizes the U.S. Space Station. NASA would stop paying for that by 2025. And citing increasing threats from China and Russia, the Pentagon also wants a big budget boost for the Pentagon -- $686 billion, one of the biggest in U.S. history.

The Office of Management and Budget says the plan will cut deficits by $3 trillion over 10 years but that assumes optimistic growth projections of three percent a year.

And the president recently signed two deficit increasing bills, the new tax law, and a budget deal that increases spending by $300 billion. Both of those will push U.S. deficits past a trillion dollars next year.

BRIGGS: Massive -- all right.

Joining us now from CNN center in Atlanta, Chris Deaton, the deputy online editor for the "Weekly Standard."

ROMANS: Hey, Chris.

BRIGGS: All right, Chris --


[05:35:00] BRIGGS: -- let's talk about this Rob Porter mess. Day seven of it now and it's clear the White House, as far as President Trump, and Rob Porter's ex-wives have very different takes on the victims of domestic abuse because Colbie Holderness took to "The Washington Post" this morning to write an op-ed.

"Rob Porter is my ex-husband. Here's what you should know about abuse. For me, living in constant fear of Rob Porter's anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years, chipped away by independence and sense of self-worth.

I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me."

That contrasts dramatically with what the president has said about domestic abuse. He tweeted this. "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegation." He, of course, is talking about the accused, not the abused.

So, in your estimation, why can't the president acknowledge the victims of domestic abuse on Twitter or in person, and why can't the White House come clean with this and move on?

DEATON: Yes, that's a great question, if only any of us knew just because we've seen this situation arise so many times before. I think certainly, most recently, going outside of his own White House having to do with Roy Moore and Roy Moore's accusers -- the Senate candidate in Alabama, of course. And the stream of credible allegations that came forward from people that did not drive the president away because it just doesn't seem like there's any sort of red line.

I think it's pretty clear, Dave, that the White House has a difficult time trying to walk back stuff like this when it comes to them making spurious claims or when it comes to them staking out ground that is really quite shocking when it comes to not just how it plays from a P.R. standpoint but just the actual morality of it -- the actual, you know, ethical nature of staking out ground like this and not being sensitive to the issues of the accused.

So, I think that's why you see these matters drag on as long as they do, as they just stake out ground it jus seems to outrageous in the first place, it takes a long time to walk it back.

ROMANS: He -- I just think that his knee-jerk reaction is always to be a contrarian, you know. And look --

BRIGGS: Yes, no matter what.

ROMANS: And journalists, by nature, are contrarians, right, because they're trying to find the other -- the other side of the story. But no matter what it is the president zigs when everyone else is zagging. When people are saying hey look, this is not good behavior and we should be condemning it he says no, no, no, but there are good people on both sides, you know. That's just the way he is and sometimes I -- you know, that could be a lot of what's going on here.

Let's talk about this budget, by the way. On the campaign trail, the president said he could cut the national debt -- eliminate it in eight years.

I don't see anything like that in this budget proposal. I see a --

BRIGGS: Not so much.

ROMANS: -- $4.4 trillion-dollar budget proposal. Obviously, it's not going to happen because -- right, because we already have a spending bill that has just been passed for 2019.

But what does this tell you?

DEATON: Well, it indicates to me that the president, like we should expect based on his campaign in 2016 that he's not exactly thinking about the sorts of deficits and much less, debt reduction long-term that Republicans have abdicated in the past.

Look, if you're not going to go after some of these modern and future term drivers of the deficit and the long-term, like defense spending to a certain extent. When it comes to the discretionary side of spending, obviously Republicans want to boost defense spending and have for a long time. A 13 percent increase, I think, is what the president called for this time around.

And when you don't touch --


DEATON: -- retirement programs like Social Security and Medicare, limiting things to well, we'll just go ahead and carve the waste out of those programs, that's not long-term limitations on the spending growth there.

BRIGGS: All right, I want to turn to immigration and what's starting in the Senate today, some call the race to 60. It's an open debate that we haven't seen in years in the Senate, allowing Republicans and Democrats to offer amendments on this immigration bill. Whatever gets to 60 first, essentially, wins and then probably fails in the House.

But some colorful descriptions of that. John Kennedy, Republican senator, says he's seen all the plans. "They're all held together with spit." I kid you not.

And, Mitch McConnell said it will be the opportunity for a thousand flowers to bloom.

What in the world is about to happen in the Senate and can it get through the House? DEATON: Oh, my gosh. I guess legislating does need some Miracle Grow nowadays to get anything done, short of ideas or anything else.

I think one of my favorite quips so far has come from John Cornyn who, in an obvious way, said we're either going to get this done this week or we aren't.

BRIGGS: Wow, thank you.

DEATON: Yes, right. I think that goes back to the old Tim McCarver, MLB analyst, who used to just make obvious statements like this. "Look at this guy use a glove like a mitt." What? What are you talking -- what are you talking about?

So, I mean, short of being able to point of specifics I think this is really reflective of that. Look, we've got -- I mean, who knows how many plans are going to come forward.

To your point, Dave, the House is kind of setting the median benchmark on the right with this plan from Bob Goodlatte, which goes much further than a lot of --

BRIGGS: Right.

DEATON: -- the Republican plans favored in the Senate.

[05:40:00] Fewer DACA recipients, potentially long-term, much less generous to their long-term prospects. Much more far-reaching in terms of what it does for border security and how much it spends and the programs it reforms.

So, when you have to deal with that being the benchmark among a lot of Republicans in the House, to your point, who knows what ends up coming out of the Senate? If it's what Chuck Schumer is calling for with respect to a more scaled-down, skinny version of something that addresses just maybe DACA and a shorter, much more limited border fix.

Maybe it doesn't matter long-term in the House just because of what the benchmark is for Republicans there.

BRIGGS: Yes. To Mitch McConnell's point about a thousand flowers blooming, it's like those flowers you buy at the grocery store that die two days later because it's like 2013. They got 68 votes in the Senate and didn't even get a vote in the House. It sure looks like that could happen in the early going but we shall see.

ROMANS: This is a metaphor-rich morning, wow. Flowers and the grocery store.

BRIGGS: But he did Tim McCarver. You win.

ROMANS: My goodness.

All right, Chris. Nice to see you.

DEATON: You, too. ROMANS: Deputy online editor of "The Weekly Standard" with us this morning.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Chris.

DEATON: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. A scare for President Trump's daughter-in-law Vanessa after she opened a letter containing a powdery substance. That letter addressed to her husband, Donald Trump, Jr.

Police say the substance was found to be non-hazardous. Vanessa Trump was unharmed.

She tweeted her appreciation. "Thank you so much for all the help today in NYC. I appreciate all the quick response to make sure that I was safe" -- adding gratitude to first responders.

BRIGGS: Her husband, Don, Jr., was both angry and relieved, tweeting, "Thankful that Vanessa and my children are safe and unharmed after that incredibly scary situation that occurred this morning. Truly disgusting that certain individuals choose to express their opposing views with such disturbing behavior."

The NYPD is investigating, trying to determine who sent that letter. Certainly, a disturbing moment for that family. You don't want that to happen.

ROMANS: I'm glad they're OK.

BRIGGS: Yes. All right.

Ahead, American Chloe Kim making history to become the youngest female snowboarder ever to win Olympic gold. Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report" live from PyeongChang.


[05:46:25] BRIGGS: American figure skater Adam Rippon is making headlines on and off the ice for his big personality.

Coy Wire has more, live from PyeongChang tonight. Good to see you, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi. Good to see you, too, Dave.

Adam has become sort of a hero for the LGBT community. He and freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy are the USA's first openly gay men to compete in the Winter Olympics.

And his spat with Vice President Pence turned a lot of heads here at the Games and around the world, really, voicing his disapproval of the vice president being chosen to lead the U.S. delegation here in PyeongChang. He turned his focus to the ice, though, saying that he didn't want this Olympic experience to be all about the V.P. So, after helping Team USA earn bronze in back-to-back team figure

skating competitions at the Games, Adam said he's not going to stop speaking his mind. His skating how has purpose -- listen.


ADAM RIPPON, BRONZE MEDALIST, FIGURE SKATING: And I've heard a lot of people like Adam Rippon should tone it down and blah, blah, blah. I can't -- I can't tone it down. I'm being me and I'm being myself, and I would be doing myself an injustice and I'd be doing an injustice to those kids who don't feel like they're comfortable to be themselves.


WIRE: Thirty-one-year-old Shaun White crushed his PyeongChang debut, taking first in the qualifying round of the men's snowboarding halfpipe. At a press conference earlier this week, I noticed Shaun still has this joy and this elation just talking about a qualifying round. And I said after all this time how are you still so focused and what keeps you going? Listen to what he said.


SHAUN WHITE, TWO-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, SNOWBOARDING: There's so many expectations, so much fear of failure, so much going on in your head. Those are -- those are huge motivators, as well as the will and want to succeed in life and things like that.

But, I don't know. It's just like what I do, honestly. And at the end of the day I kind of like was sitting there after Sochi and certain things and I'm like this is what I do. This is what I feel good doing.


WIRE: In case you're just waking up, we have to let you know 17-year- old Chloe Kim from California became a megastar, making history, becoming the youngest woman ever to take gold on snow at a Winter Games.

And you know what she had for a victory meal afterwards? Pizza and a latte. You can't get enough of this one.

BRIGGS: Pizza and a latte. Coffee with ice and pizza doesn't go with me.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: You need a soda.

ROMANS: She's cool. She is cool.

BRIGGS: But she is awesome.

ROMANS: She can have whatever she wants.

BRIGGS: Dad is from South Korea. A great story.

We appreciate it, Coy. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Coy.

All right. The official portraits of the nation's 44th president and the first lady unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. They definitely break with tradition.

Barack Obama's portrait depicts him seated against a backdrop of green foliage. I don't know what you're thinking in the Chicago this morning, folks, but some people think this looks like the ivy at Wrigley. I've kind of got to agree but that would be a burn for the president because he's a White Sox fan.

BRIGGS: It sure would.

ROMANS: The former president chose Kehinde Wiley, famous for his depiction of African-Americans posed in the style of old master paintings.

BRIGGS: Mr. Obama said he tried but failed to have something put on his look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I tried to negotiate less gray hair and Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well.


ROMANS: The painting of Michelle Obama shows a fashion-forward first lady in a flowing, patterned dress. Michelle Obama chose Baltimore- based artist Amy Sherald, another African-American artist known for painting grayscale.

[05:50:05] And look at this carefully. It's -- she paints in grayscale and with undertones of taupe, not necessarily to a race race, but to make it irrelevant. So, it's a unique style that is -- I think the first lady -- former first lady chose her for a reason, to be non-traditional.

Some people are saying oh, it doesn't look like her and then some people sort of dissing it. But I think if you chose --

BRIGGS: You love it.

ROMANS: I actually like it. I think if you chose non-tradition it's a beautiful, beautiful representation.

BRIGGS: You know me. The sports guy in me can't get away from that ivy Wrigley --

ROMANS: I know. Me, too. BRIGGS: -- behind Obama.

The "Chicago Tribune" writing about that this morning, saying "Why is it set at Wrigley Field?" That's what Chicagoans are asking but nice portraits nonetheless.

ROMANS: All right. Cubs fans, it's not always about you.

All right. The maker of Dove Soap and Ben & Jerry's is threatening Facebook and Google. It says clean up or we'll pull our ads. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:55:22] ROMANS: The London City Airport reopening this morning more than 24 hours after an unexploded World War II bomb was found nearby in the Thames River. London Mayor Sadiq Khan says the bomb was safely removed and transported to a secure disposal location.

Officials say the airport in southeast London is now back to business as usual.

BRIGGS: Two Baltimore detectives convicted of robbery and racketeering in a case renewing charges of widespread corruption in the police department.

Forty-seven-year-old Daniel Hersl and 30-year-old Marcus Taylor joining six colleagues from the elite Gun Trace Task Force who already pleaded guilty. The officers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, drugs, guns, and luxury accessories while pretending to seize the good for legitimate enforcement reasons.

Thousand of convictions in cases handled by the task force are now being questioned by defense attorneys.

ROMANS: The principal at a Philadelphia elementary school is paying eighth grades to not fight and she says it is working. Stephanie Andrewlevich runs Mitchell Elementary School in a violent corner of the city. She tells "The Philadelphia Enquirer" if all eighth graders make it to graduation with no physical violence each student will get a hundred bucks.

So far this year, only eight percent of the eighth graders have been suspended, down from 17 percent at the same time last year. The principal hopes a sponsor will come forward but if not, she'll put up the $3,300 herself.

All right. Speaking of money, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks and U.S. futures are lower right now but, you know, Wall Street had a big rebound yesterday after its worst week in two years.

The Dow shot up 410 points, spiking 740 in just two trading days -- Friday and Monday. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 notched their biggest two-day percentage jump since 2016. Volatility shook Wall Street last week, pushing U.S. stocks into a correction. Investors worry about rising bond yields, inflation, and what both mean for interest rates.

After six straight days of huge swings it looks like, Dave, things have calmed down, at least for now. The VIX is something that measures volatility and it eased about 12 percent yesterday.

All right. Just as Amazon publicly searches for a second headquarters it is laying off hundreds of employees, mostly at its Seattle H.Q. Amazon confirms the layoffs quote "as part of our annual planning process we are making headcount adjustments across the company." It will try to find roles for the affected employees in other departments.

Amazon says it isn't reducing overall staff. In fact, it added 130,000 jobs last year.

All right. The maker Dove, Lipton, Ben & Jerry's -- big consumer brands -- has a message for Facebook and Google. Clean up or we'll pull out our ads. Unilever will pull ads from platforms it calls a swamp of fake news, and racism, and sexism.

Unilever is one the world's top advertisers, spending about $2.5 billion each year on digital ads.

Google and Facebook dominate the online marketplace but Google has been under fire for showing ads alongside objectionable videos. Facebook face harsh criticism for enabling fake news and foreign election meddling. And this big brand says we don't want our stuff advertised next to that garbage.

BRIGGS: All right, from Facebook and Google to Twitter. The president is up and tweeting this morning, this one about DACA. "Negotiations have begun," he says. "This will be our last chance to solve the DACA puzzle."

The president also tweeting about infrastructure, saying his plan has "received great reviews by everyone except, of course, the Democrats." But most republicans say that plan doesn't stand a chance of getting through Congress.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. Camerota and Cuomo back together. We'll see you tomorrow.


SANDERS: He certainly supports the victims of domestic violence.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And he said very strongly that he's innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president doesn't say one word about the lives that have been scarred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just not believable when the president wants to get a message out, he does it.

SANDERS: We learned of the extent of the situation last Tuesday evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If somebody did know the full extent and I'm the president, I want to get rid of him.

TRUMP: We're going to have the strongest military we've ever had, by far.

ROMANS: President Trump outlining a budget that would balloon the federal deficit despite steep cuts to social programs.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: One of the motivations was to stop the Obama deficit string and now, the Republicans are doing just as bad.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Congress was not spending money like a drunk sailor and that's not true. A drunk sailor stops when he runs out of money.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALIYSN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, February 13th, 6:00 here in New York.

Here's our "Starting Line."

The White House insists President Trump supports victims of domestic violence, except that's the opposite of every public statement and tweet from the president, expressing sympathy only for the accused.